Social workers often have to go through the tough tasks of their days alone -- unless they have the good fortune to work with an assistant. Like social workers, social worker assistants are responsible for helping people overcome obstacles in their lives and become more self-sufficient. Qualifications such as a bachelor's or associate degree may be required for these jobs, though other qualities or traits can really help you do your job well.
Whether you're working with a social worker directly or going out on jobs alone, as a social worker assistant you'll need to have the quality of perception. It's not enough just to listen to the things a client is telling you about her situation -- social worker assistants need to also be able to read between the lines. Take the woman who's dealing with an abusive husband, or the child whose home life is potentially dangerous but won't talk about it -- to be good at this job, you'll need to be able to pick up on subtle cues. As an assistant, it won't be your job to solve all problems, but instead, to recognize them.
Social workers and their assistants have to work with people who are dealing with really tough situations. If you're not a compassionate person, you're not going to thrive in the job. Assistants often work with the elderly to help them get through a meal or use the bathroom, or work with special-needs or at-risk youths who need a little extra attention. So along with being compassionate, assistants should have lots of patience.
Social workers and their assistants can find themselves buried in a mound of paperwork or overwhelmed by a lot of online filing. As such, organizational qualities can be a big help in this profession. In some cases, filing a social worker's paperwork may be all the assistant does; in that case, organization is not just ideal, it's essential. Also important is the ability to communicate well, especially for writing reports and talking with clients and co-workers.
Social worker assistants are responsible for helping people live better lives -- which for the client may include accessing services from various organizations. To do that well, you'll need to be resourceful, learning about government programs or nonprofit assistance that may be of benefit to clients. You should also be well-read in the field of social service, reading forums, newsletters and government legislation to help keep on top of changes in services and policies that apply to clients.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.